Tell My Story

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Tell My Story Movie Poster Image
Suicide prevention docu offers revealing, actionable advice.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 85 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Documentary is full of helpful advice for loved ones of those with suicidal ideation, including prevention tips and a hotline to call for help.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Suicide survivors and those who've experienced the loss of a loved one from suicide show courage and humility in coming forward to share their stories in effort to help others. Interview subjects cross all lines of diversity: race, age, gender, income, etc. 

Violence

No violent imagery, but movie's subject matter is suicide and how to prevent it. No descriptions of how attempts, successful or unsuccessful, were made. Discussion of self-harm while holding the knife used. A man describes a moment of rage during which he punched a table, for which there were consequences.

Sex
Language

A prominently featured sticker in a tattoo parlor reads: "F--k s--tty tattoos." The word "crap" is used.

Consumerism

Apple laptop shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to the consequences of overmedicating depressed youth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tell My Story is a suicide prevention documentary that aims to help families understand why adolescent suicide has skyrocketed. It follows Jason Reid, a grieving dad whose 14-year-old son, Ryan, ended his life despite the fact that they had a great relationship, Jason was an actively engaged parent, and Ryan knew he was loved. As Jason tries to understand the reasons behind the increase in completed suicides among 10- to 17-year-olds, the film addresses the connection between devices/social media use and adolescent mental health. The information shared here by experts in suicide prevention, mental health professionals, and suicide survivors isn't the same old, same old: Families will get valuable, actionable advice on signs to look for and may rethink their parenting strategy. Details of suicide methods aren't shared, but there is a conversation about cutting. Preview the content first, but you may find the film useful to watch with your kids (including tweens), as it shows teens opening up and sharing their feelings of loneliness, despair, and hopelessness -- and how someone might have been able to help.

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What's the story?

TELL MY STORY were the words left behind by 14-year-old Ryan when he died via suicide. His father, Jason Reid, honors his son's wish by meeting with suicide survivors, prevention experts, and mental health professionals to explain to other parents why there's been a 70% increase in adolescent suicide in the last decade -- and what parents and caregivers can do to help children in crisis.

Is it any good?

Taking 85 minutes to watch this documentary could actually save a kid's life. Jason Reid thought he was doing everything right -- he had a fun, loving, engaged relationship with Ryan -- and he was completely blindsided by Ryan's death. Some similarly themed documentaries focus on giving the lost child's life meaning, but here, Jason is looking for substantive answers. He partners with Mariangela Abeo, a photojournalist behind a project that collects stories of loss. She guides Jason on his path to hear different perspectives from both young people who attempted suicide and their parents, both of whom offer helpful insights. What's remarkable is that the kids really do open up and share their raw feelings of being unable to escape the dark places they've dwelled in. It's clear they're mustering all the courage they have to speak out in hopes of providing the lifeline they wish someone had been able to offer them. 

Collecting both anecdotal and data-driven information, Jason provides sobering statistics and real-world advice. He and other subjects have moments of processing their emotions on camera, but the film as a whole isn't meant to make you cry. It's meant to prompt parents and caregivers to examine their children's behavior -- and their own. The world, and adolescents, have changed, and some parents aren't up to speed on risk factors or signs of trouble. Kids who have suicidal ideation may very well not show it; they could appear happy. And the behavior that many might name as hallmarks of excellent parenting -- communicating with kids, being an active part of their lives, and making sure they know they're loved and supported -- may not be enough to keep some kids afloat. The movie argues that, thanks to social media, the world around kids is now louder than their life at home -- and there's no respite. Technological connectivity may be eroding their personal connectivity, which can have harmful effects. Tell My Story isn't a slickly produced film: There's some quirky editing and some lags, and it's lacking some of the artistry that could take it from advocacy to pop culture status. Some of its ideas are solid, and some are more in the realm of spitballing, which means they may need thoughtful consideration of how they might apply to individual kids. But the information delivered is so powerful that it feels like mandatory viewing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teen suicide. This is an incredibly tough topic, but one that needs to be addressed. What makes some people think that it's their only option? What impact does their decision have on their friends and family? Where can kids in distress turn for assistance?

  • Ryan wasn't bullied; he was depressed. Do you think that devices and social media use can impact kids' mental health?

  • Jackson talks about his role as a "fixer" and how he absorbs others' depression. Is it possible to be too empathetic? What can we do to protect our own emotional health while being a good friend to others?

  • Discuss the courage and humility of those interviewed in Tell My Story. Why do you think they felt it was important to speak up? How does the film show the importance of communication?

  • Several times, it's mentioned that bringing up the subject of suicide with kids doesn't create more suicidal instances. But suicidal ideation, self-harm, and incidents all rose after 13 Reasons Why was released, although it's unclear whether the Netflix series is the cause. What's your opinion? How can this subject be discussed for prevention without presenting it as an option? Can suicide be glamorized through the media?

Movie details

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